Steady Rise — Spartacus Leathers' Josh Miller

Scott Ross

Spartacus Leathers launched in Portland 26 years ago as a single adult retail store known for offering highquality, adult leather goods. Josh Miller joined the company as an inventory control specialist a little more than 15 years ago while the company was still manufacturing its leather goods in its retail store’s basement. Miller worked his way up through the ranks and today is vice president of the company, which has transformed from a local adult retailer into a manufacturer of premium leather, metal, and rubber goods that are sold globally.

Miller’s job is to ensure that the well-tuned corporate machinery that drove the company’s vast expansion through the years continues to run smoothly. “I’m a pretty hands-on type of executive and my duties include overseeing various aspects of our operations,” Miller told XBIZ. “Every day I talk to our production manager and our production crew. I talk to our sales and marketing crew several times each day and I even still meet with the manager and staff of our retail store quite regularly.”

The work [our artisans] produce, the craftsmanship involved, is pretty amazing when compared to the rest of the market. —Josh Miller VP, Spartacus Leathers

Though manufacturing has far outpaced the company’s retail operations by a wide margin, Miller values his experience on the front lines, especially his stint managing the company’s Portland, Ore., retail store where he learned valuable lessons about the importance of earning the trust of the consumer. “It is especially important now in this social media savvy culture to build connections with your customers. Not just building name brand recognition, but building trust in the product itself, so that customers know that what they are is getting is a good value. We stand behind our products 100 percent and that really goes a long way to building that trust that customers need.”

One reason Spartacus can safely vouch for its products is that even as it continues to expand production efforts, the company continues to assemble its products at its own facility. And Spartacus chooses to do so even though contracting the work to foreign manufacturers could feasibly reduce the company’s costs and add to the bottom line. “Producing the work in-house gives us more control over the quality of the products, allowing us to ensure that every item meets our high standards,” Miller said.

The company’s growth required moving the production division out of the basement and into a separate manufacturing facility but the items are still hand assembled by artisans, some of whom have been at the company even longer than Miller. “The work they produce, the craftsmanship involved, is pretty amazing when compared to the rest of the market. I know what is out there and I am very impressed with what these guys do.”

While Spartacus continues to be known for its premium leather, BDSM goods, its manufacturing has expanded to include various product lines that complement its core niche. Through the years, the company introduced BDSM related products such as clamps, handcuffs, paddles, and other such accessories that are a large part of each year’s catalog. “For our most popular leather items we offer fabric alternatives such as rubber and sheepskin lining, fabrics that offer unique textures that some customers prefer.”

According to Miller, the company’s fastest growing product category is nipple clamps. “Our product line is probably the most diverse on the market,” Miller suggested. “We have everything for everyone in that category; for novices, experts and everything in between.”

In order to make it easier for customers to find the right clamp for their needs, Spartacus rates its clamps on a “1-to-3” scale, where “1” represents the clamps that offer the lightest pressure and “3” signifies the clamps that offer the most pressure. Adjustable clamps are indicated by multiple numbers that indicate that model’s pressure range. And the clamps are not simply for nipples; Spartacus offers a Y-style model that features an attached clit clamp or cock ring.

Last year Spartacus celebrated its 25th anniversary with the launch of Blown, a line of hand-blown glass dildos and plugs that nudged the company known for BDSM gear into the mainstream of adult retail. Miller suggests that part of the reason that Blown is a success is because of the reputation Spartacus has for creating excellent hand-crafted items. “Blown was very well received even though it is not a product category that we are traditionally known for,” Miller said. “We are known across the globe for our premium hand-crafted goods made by artisan craftsmen and Blown fits that bill exactly. Customers accepted our new product line because they knew they could trust us to produce quality products.”